Business leader says honest leadership in Council District 8 will only make a great county better
Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) – A great deal has been said over the last week about a campaign contribution made by Lou Kennedy, the CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, to Glen Conwell, a candidate for Lexington County Council in District 8. Recently, Kennedy made several legal donations to the SC Republican Party of $7,000 each and $5,000 of one of those donations was given to Conwell’s campaign. Kennedy said that when she gave the state party the money, they advised her this was common in state races and entirely legal. They asked if there was a particular candidate she would like to support, and she named Conwell. That’s when the SC GOP sent Conwell the donation of $5,000.
Kennedy says that this was the first time she ever made a campaign contribution this way, she’s a businesswoman not a politician, but was very angry with a letter from incumbent Ned Tolar’s e-mail account sent to his constituents. In that letter, Tolar represented a PAC (Political Action Committee) and asked for money for specific candidates. The letter read, “This would put us in a position where we would have 6 sold (We’re not sure if the word sold is a typo for solid or it means sold) votes for change. With these votes we could begin to clean up the mess that is Lexington County.” (See the PAC letter by clicking here). The second sentence is what angered Kennedy the most.
Lou Kennedy grew up in the West Columbia / Cayce area, later moved to Lexington, and eventually married Bill Kennedy who had studied and become a pharmacist at USC. Bill Kennedy had sold a company that he started which distributed home healthcare products like bedside potties and walkers, and eventually started making generic medicines. That medicine company was Nephron Pharmaceuticals and was based in Orlando, Florida. Lou moved there with Bill after they were married and eventually he turned the entire company’s operation over to his wife, an extremely smart, very strong-willed, workaholic of a woman, making her the company CEO.
Nephron was set to make a major expansion in Orlando when the local government there wanted them to make some fake exterior changes that Kennedy thought was ridiculous. Walk in the headquarters here now, and it’s clear she has a taste for beautiful things. Instead of installing the faux windows and silly stripes on their new building Orlando wanted, Kennedy called South Carolina, connected with her old hometown, and Nephron built its new headquarters in Lexington County’s Saxe Gotha Industrial Park in Cayce. For Lexington County it was a windfall. The Kennedy’s investment was around $350 million dollars, the relocation brought with it an aggregated total of 850 jobs, and most pay $71,000 per year or higher. Most of those employees live in Lexington County, pay property taxes, and spend their money in our businesses.
In Tolar’s letter from the We Love Lexington County PAC, he is soliciting funding for the Beth Carrigg, Jerry Sanders, and the Jeff Sarokas campaigns. Since the e-mail went out, several of the people who are named in it say they never approved of it including their names nor did they ask Tolar to solicit funds for them. One even said he was, “furious,” to be included in the letter that had a number of misspelled names and grammatical errors in it. One candidates also said Tolar had originally denied sending the e-mail but when he was shown a copy that had his e-mail address attached, he sheepishly admitted he sent it.
Kennedy said that these are just a few examples of why she decided she needed to be involved in politics for the first time. “I can’t stand somebody who tells a lie,” Kennedy said. “I attended a Baptist church with my mom right here in Cayce and they taught us you should not tell lies. Ned obviously missed that lesson,” she said.
Kennedy said that four-years ago, Tolar laid the blame for the Penny Tax for Paving project solely at the feet of then Councilman Bill Banning and that simply was a lie. Bill Banning was on the council at the time, did support the paving part of the penny push, but many people had input into that effort. Kennedy said Banning simply had input into that project just like everyone else; even all the mayors of Lexington County towns had input on that list. This was then offered to Lexington County residents on a ballot. They flatly turned the project down and most say it was because of the non-paving items that had been added.
Kennedy said that Tolar’s audacity to claim that Lexington County is in a mess really hurt her. “I am a big cheerleader at heart. I was a cheerleader at Lexington High School and I am a cheerleader for Lexington County. When someone attacks something I love, they can expect me to go on the attack too!” County leaders have confirmed that Kennedy is one of their biggest assets when recruiting new businesses to come to Lexington County. One county councilman said, “Lou Kennedy is always on the stop when we are showing new business prospects our county. She is an absolute jewel and constantly tells everyone she meets what a wonderful place this is to live and do business.”
In several recent articles regarding the topic of Kennedy’s donation to Conwell in a local newspaper, Councilman Tolar said that he felt Kennedy was retaliating against him for his support of what he called “transparency” when the county offers businesses like Kennedy’s deals and incentives to locate here. Kennedy’s business got an incentive package that included a fee-in-lieu of taxes, an extremely common practice when governments are trying to lure large businesses and industry to their area. For those incentives, the industry or business that is getting the deal must meet preset criteria or benchmarks that include things like dollars invested and number of jobs created over time. If these marks aren’t met, the business can be penalized, or their incentives can be pulled. In the case of Nephron, Kennedy says they have outpaced every expected promise to the people of Lexington County. Kennedy said that in the four-years Tolar has served on council, she believes he’s voted yes for the fee-in-lieu of taxes 14 separate times. She says that’s just another example of Tolar saying one thing for the purpose of scoring political points and then doing another. “I don’t want this man leading this awesome county.”
In conclusion, Kennedy said that she felt like Tolar has been a negative influence on this great county and if we aren’t cautious, his negativity could be contagious. “I had never met Glen Conwell and have never talked to the man. I did receive a nice e-mail thanking me for the donation after he received it. I carefully asked about him, liked the fact that he was a man of faith, a small businessman, and a family man. I also felt he was honest and had heard he was very positive when he served Lexington School District Two as a member of its Board of Trustees. That and that alone is why I made the donation to his campaign.”
Kennedy invited everyone to look into Tolar’s votes, political antics, and bag of tricks. “Ask the man if he had received a legal donation from a supporter of $5,000 for his campaign, would he have returned it? I think we all know the answer to that!” The Lexington Ledger did just that in an e-mail sent to several of Tolar’s emails accounts as well as a host of other questions. At this point, we haven’t received a response but will update in the future if we do.